Cyclone Road

CHASE BLOG

Tuesday, May 27, 2003


Shutting it Down

I'm spending a few more days with friends in the DFW area before heading back to Indiana for the rest of the summer. Right now I'm in Cleburne, at a public library which blocks access to newsgroups, so I'm unable to keep up with much of the lament of my chaser pals. But I can hear their cries in the ether--haha. Yes, the season ended as violently and abruptly as it began, strangely enough, and stranded many chasers who have only arrived for their yearly vacations in the last few days. My last check of medium range models shows very little hope for the next several days. For me, it's a signal that the time for fun is over. I expect to see a few more people tomorrow afternoon and evening, then begin the push for Bloomington on Thursday, perhaps.

Sunday, May 25, 2003


Images from past days

I'm taking a few down days to catch up on errands. This could be the end the road for me, as well, considering the grim prospects shown by the medium range models. If so, I'm enthusiastic about the way the season went, easily my best ever. If it ends today, I will have logged over 10,000 miles chasing on 16 of 22 days, observing approximately 18 supercells and 7 tornadoes.

I'm posting additional images from May 22, when we observed some amazing sheared, mini-meso cumulus clouds. No, that's not a precise scientific term for this phenomenon, but close enough. Basically, there's enough low level shear to spin and sculpt these bases, but not enough instability to keep the updrafts vertical against the upper level shear. The result, at least on this day, is a perfect balance of continuous updrafts in a horizontal direction! Quite a strange sight. Jeff Gammons has great time lapse of this on his Weathervine site. The images for the 22nd are not clickable. I'll load the full images later when I have more time and better bandwidth. The images at the bottom of this post for the 23rd, however, are thumbnails.





Then the pictures from the marathon chase of May 23, when I drove from Goodland, Kansas to Hays at 5:00 AM, waited while the Toyota mechanics searched for the cause of the metallic screech from my differential, then raced back to Colorado and down along the Rocky Mountains to catch these sweet LP storms along the Front Range, followed by the most violent lightning storm I've experienced in some time. Short quick bursts of lightning all around me, so bright I had to blink several times to clear my vision after a strike would land in front of me. I have video captures of some of those sparks which I'll post when I return to Indiana. Meanwhile, here's the daytime digital stills from the storms, which I had all to myself, I should mention.


(click for full image)

(click for full image)

Finally, one more great image from the 24th, this shot at night near Claude as the storms were forming a fantastic, sculpted gust front:




Dynamic May Morphology


Steve Miller admires tall LP near Mobeetie


More from the same cell


Gustnado near Hoover


Nighttime Striations


Amarillo, Texas--Steve Miller and I chased isolated LP storms in the Eastern Texas Panhandle today, one of which morphed from a small, compact LP north of Mobeetie in Wheeler County into a classic supercell with a large rain core near Hoover, where we witnessed a large and impressive gustnado (see picture). This feature might have been reported as a tornado though several impressive wall clouds associated with constantly westward-developing mesos certainly could have touched down briefly. In Pampa, what had become a line segment with strong inflow on the eastern and western flanks shrunk into a more classic supercell with a small hook and mesocyclone, dropping baseball hail on State Road 70 just south of the city. We perched beneath a gas station awning, looking for a way to escape back into a favorable viewing position. As the storm moved southwest, we skirted the hail core by driving south on 70 as the storm cleared the road.

We headed west on Interstate 40 toward Amarillo and then south to Goodnight where we shot the laminar banded gustfront, polished and sculpted something like the May 27, 2001 derecho in Southern Kansas. Considering the small distance we traveled, we’re amazed to realize we chased more than five hours from 4:15 PM CST to past 9:30. Tonight, we’re holed up in the Amarillo Super 8 looking at Southeast New Mexico tomorrow, or wherever the boundary finally stops for the night. Weathervine crew and Scott Eubanks also chased with us.

Yesterday, we caught a photogenic LP near Colorado Springs, Colorado, then moved south to chase the supercell backed against Cheyenne Mountain. South of Pueblo, Steve Miller, who was riding with Weathervine at the time since I was coming back from the mechanic's, saw a land spout southwest of Fowler while I was only miles behind navigating through the town itself. Still, I took several great photos from east of Colorado Springs and Pueblo and enjoyed the great high terrain of the Colorado Front Range.

Friday, May 23, 2003


Purple Hays

Hays, Kansas--I'm in Hays, Kansas this morning where the Toyota dealer told me nothing is wrong with my truck. A high-pitched metallic grinding sound came from the chassis last night in the Goodland, Kansas Wal-Mart parking lot, so I got up at 5:00 AM and drove the 120 miles to Hays thinking my chase season might be over. They couldn't duplicate the sound or find anything out of order.

Today's setup is another mesoscale mystery, this time with extensive cloud cover over most of Western Kansas. I'm banking on high terrain and some fair dewpoints in extreme Eastern Colorado, and a small boundary I analyzed on the Goodland radar, which looks to be pushing east of Limon right now. I'm heading for the Colorado county just west of Goodland to see if I can catch up with the gang and/or catch some upslope storms.

Yesterday we saw some amazing cumulus structure, several with mesocyclonic and polished, LP appearances, but with updrafts blown completely vertical venhilating from the flying saucer, stacked plate bases. I've never seen features quite like these and am anxious to post the pictures later tonight.

Thursday, May 22, 2003


From the Road
Guymon, Oklahoma--We're scouring data in the Guymon public library, eyeing an area from NW Kansas to Eastern Colorado for severe storms later in the day. The pattern now is harder to forecast, but probably more rewarding as dozens of chasers have planted themselves at home in mourning for the lack of constant outbreaks or in fear of computer models. Meanwhile, nearly 1500 j/kg CAPE values and marginally supportive shear profiles could reward the persistent up here in the high terrain. Or we could bust. Ha!

Yesterday was a remarkable travel day. We visited the Texas Panhandle ghostown of Moteebie where a local man named Dale Corcoran told us stories of the still-standing first panhandle jail, and how a tornado in 1897 destroyed the thriving town of Moteebie, which at the time was the largest city in the area with stagecoach lines arriving from around the plains. We toured the jail, a few other buildings, and hung out with a very tame and curious deer with a large red tag marked "210" in his ear. Later, we visited a graveyard south of the ghostown where Dale told us stories about dozens of people at rest there, including his great-grandfather, a man with such a stunning life story that I'll keep it from the prying imaginations of my writerly friends. Haha. Stay tuned for more on that.

Dale Corcoran is a remarkable man himself, retired from working oil rigs, we guessed, who took up maintaining the old graveyard and jail as a way to keep himself occupied. Still with a strong handshake and hearty laugh in his late 60's, he wore a cutoff white t-shirt and had a burn mark on the tip of his index fingers from decades of getting the last drag off every cigarette. His skin was a permanent sunned leather. He laughed about our interest in the place but answered every question in a detailed and thoughtful drawl, hypnotizing us with his memory of dates and people dead for fifty and sixty years. When we finished, he led us back through town in his white pickup truck and stopped at his small house, where he lives with his fifth wife. There's no place like the Texas Panhandle.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


On the Road Again

The gang is bound for Southwest Kansas this morning, looking for two days of chasing despite the dire predictions of model worshippers everywhere. We hardly have time to photograph all the supercells for the constant strem of cellphone calls describing the extent and power of the upper level ridge. Call us crazy. Currently looking at this area of Kansas and Colorado for two days of chasing and possibly into the weekend. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003


Imagery from the past several days

I updated my weblog with a variety of images from the last 10 days. I have an edited video clip of the Stanford/Mallett, Texas tornadoes from May 15th.

I also have video captures of the large tornado seen along I-44 on May 9th near Stroud and Chandler,Oklahoma. These images from 5-9 are grainy, and the tornado is barely backlit. The scariest thing about these is that Dave Fick and I never really understood the size of the tornado just a mile or so ahead of us.

Finally, I have a few thumbnails from the picturesque supercell between Duncan and Ardmore, Oklahoma on May 19th.

Huge thanks to Steve Miller for the use of his house and computers, and Jeff Gammons, Chris Collura, and Jason Foster for assistance with video editing and other technical issues. We've had a fun down day. Despite gloomy talk on the lists, we're heading for New Mexico tomorrow for LP's on Thursday and whatever may follow through the weekend.

MAY 19 SW OK SUPERCELLS

See full report here.

MAY 15 TORNADO VIDEO

See full report here.

MAY 9 OKLAHOMA TORNADO VIDEO CAPTURES
These were taken from near Interstate 44 between Stroud and Chandler and show the tornado backlit by occasional lightning. I have not thumbnailed them because it's hard enough to detect the large tornado in the center of the frame with the full image. So no thumbs, but it's there. Dave Fick and I were often less than a mile from this large tornado as it marched up 44. A full report is in the archives of the blog.

See all images and report here.




Waiting Day

McKinney, Texas-- We're at Steve Miller's house in McKinney watching video and talking about going to IHOP or Cracker Barrel. Very disappointed that SPC dropped the slight risk in NM tomorrow, so it looks like we'll stick around here tonight and head west in the morning.

Last night, a large thundershower approached McKinney from the north at about 2:30 AM. Of course, we hadn't gone to bed yet and so we grabbed the cameras. We jogged down the street and filmed lightning from an open area at the end of the cul-de-sac. We heard the drumming sound of rain approaching and the first few drops served as a warning for the deluge seconds later. Five stormchasers beat it down the road in the pouring rain, cameras tucked under t-shirts, back to the refuge of Steve's garage. A wild night and thus the late posts today.


Picturesque Cold Front Supercells

McKinney, Texas--Steve Miller and I along with the Weathervine gang chased a beautiful supercell from near Duncan, Oklahoma to near Ardmore today. The storm wrapped up with silver laminar banding in the lower and mid-levels and displayed several wall clouds and long tail clouds and inflow bands. Today's setup was very unusual in that the cold front produced a vanguard windshift line, oriented north to south, which acted as a convergence axis in much the same way as a dryline. Also, with mid-level flow oriented perpendicular to the boundary, storms moved off the front and did not seed other cells along the forcing. The deep cold air was well behind the windshift, and from what I understand about people who studied the models extensively this morning, the mesoscale environment developed much differently than progged. We enjoyed this backlit suerpcell for several hours as it generated tornado warnings in Stephens, Jefferson, and Carter Counties.

Later, another supercell developed to the west and we intercepted it just north of the Red River in Love County. This storm had a large bell shaped mesocyclone and was also visually impressive for some time. Will post photos later, and I may have an AVI clip of the two simultaneous tornados on Thursday in the Texas panhandle. Right now, we're facing at least tomorrow afternoon down until we reposition to West Texas for Wednesday or later in the week.


Monday, May 19, 2003


Front Range, Colorado--Steve Miller and I are
patrolling the front range of Eastern Colorado for the
chance of low precipitation supercells generated by
orographic lifting in the elevated terrain ahead of
the Rocky Mountains. Today's setup is marginal, but
with a polar front sweeping south through the plains
this upcoming week, we're taking our chances where we
find them. We plan to meet with the Weathervine team
around Lamar and reposition from there.

Friday, May 16, 2003


Cold Core Low Chase: May 16, 2003

Denton, Texas--Steve Miller and I chased across Oklahoma on Friday, racing the upper low responsible for Thursday's tornadoes, and found ourselves surrounded by small, tropical-style miniature supercells which produced dozens of brief, weak tornadoes. We missed them all. What we finally caught a line of storms south of Bristow near I-44 on the eastern edge of the surface low, well behind the storms which generated tornado warnings near McAlester and other communities. We started an early drive from Amarillo, but we were late for the best storms east of the metro area. Here's some of what we saw near Bristow:

See full report and images here.

Saturday is a needed down day. I plan to wash my incredibly dirty vehicle and replace an antennae decapitated on Thursday by power lines which hung low over the road after the tornadoes ripped through the poles. I didn't intend to collide with these wires; we spotted them at the last moment and were thankful they only damaged a single antenna. I anticipate other down-day activities like laundry, writing more detailed chase reports, and catching up with some local friends.


Two Tornadoes W of Mallet, TX (©2003 Steve Miller / Amos Magliocco)


Steve Miller and I intercepted three tornadoes this afternoon and evening with a storm that moved from north of Dalhart northeast through Dallam County in the extreme North Texas Panhandle. Due west of Mallet about seven miles, the large mesocyclone produced a multi-vortex wedge tornado and a long, elephant trunk satellite tornado simultaneously. Later, northwest of Texhoma in the Oklahoma panhandle, we observed a small white rope tornado.

See full report and images here.

Scott Eubanks and John Poch also chased with us. Huge thanks to Phillip Flory for excellent nowcasting. More detailed report later.

Thursday, May 15, 2003


Caprock Magic Show Later Today

Lubbock, Texas--Watching a very powerful mid-level impulse churn towards the Texas panhandle right now where a juiced boundary layer awaits. I have no doubt that some storms will have tornadoes; the question is whether or not we'll see them or be on the right storm. We're gonna try. Our target at the moment is from Dimmit to Hereford, Texas, eding north along with the front. We expect long-lived supercells to travel east or just north of due east, so we could chase them right along the I-40 corridor into Oklahoma later today. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003


Tomorrow's Big Event
Lubbock, Texas--Big event on tap for tomorrow. Dr. P, if you're reading this, call my cell phone. I plan to call you in the morning; we just arrived. Tomorrow, playing the triple point whereever it sets up. More in the morning.


Update from the road
Steve and I wait in the Seymour library watching convergence along the Red River as the outflow boundary slides south. We're nervous about the cap, weak mid-level winds, and other mesoscale vagaries. We're excited about the backed flow along the boundary and the Day 2--haha. Tomorrow looks like a big event out near LBB. Edwards's new outlook upgrades the language for the event.


Life in Lawton

Lawton, Oklahoma--Steve Miller and I are in Lawton, Oklahoma this morning, the town that supports Fort Sill, known to the US Army as the home of the field artillery. No cannon fire to report here but hopefully severe storms will thunder up and down the dryline this afternoon where the warm front and dryline intersect near a developing surface low north of Abilene. Our setup today is highly conditional and depends much on deep layer shear and airmass recovery, which this morning looks fair at least.

Yesterday was an old fashioned cap bust in Northern Oklahoma. We played the intersection of the dryline and a large outflow boundary sliding southwestward from a large cold pool generated by an early morning MCS in Eastern Oklahoma. Eric Nguyenand Scott Currens waited out in the sun with us as we made jokes about Weather Channel commercials and threw rocks at signs. Later we encountered Roger Hill and the Cloud 9 Tour groups at a great Chinese Buffett in Enid, Oklahoma. On our way to Lawton last night we saw several DOW trucks parked on the of the road in Kingfisher, their crews enjoying a meal at the humble looking City Cafe downtown.

Tomorrow we expect a serious day of severe weather in West Texas. Lubbock may be under the gun, caught between the dryline to the west (maybe) and an approaching strong upper level vorticity maxima, currently off the coast of California.

Monday, May 12, 2003


Waiting in Clinton Country

Clinton, Oklahoma--Steve Miller and I are in position for storms firing along the dryline and warm front tomorrow. Our target area as of tonight is approximately Dodge City, Kansas to Woodward, Oklahoma. Here we go again!


Headed Back to Kansas

Denton, Texas--A triple point setup in Southwest Kansas is the starting point for what could be another active week of severe weather in the Central and Southern plains. While nothing on the order of last week's chaos is expected again (probably not for many years, honestly), a more typical, and likely more chase-able pattern of isolated supercells should settle in with a northwest flow regime and instability at the surface. My current plans are to leave Denton this afternoon and camp in Woodward Oklahoma, giving me position in Southwest Kansas or Northwest Oklahoma should the warm front not lift as far north as originally progged.



Denton, Texas--Sunday I spent in Denton seeing a few old friends and taking care of errands necessary before the next long week of chasing beginning next week. Denton was cool and breezy today with plenty of sunshine, so I sat in front of my favorite coffee shop and soaked in the place. I love this town. I planned to see more people tomorrow including some friends from the writing program at UNT, but the atmosphere calls and so I hit the road for Kansas not too long after checkout tomorrow.

Sunday, May 11, 2003


Report: OKC Supercell 5-9-2003

Denton, Texas--Dave Fick and I chased the tornadic supercell in Oklahoma on Friday from near Rocky in the southwestern part of the state through the Oklahoma City metro area and up the turnpike through Tulsa county, until the storm weakened on radar. We estimate being engaged with this spectacular, cyclic supercell for almost
seven hours and over two hundred miles, during which it generated close to forty tornado warnings, I've been told. We stopped around 2:30 AM, dazed and delirious with adrenaline and exhaustion.

We believe the dry air in the lower levels in Southwestern Oklahoma, per the 18z OUN sounding Thursday and related to the veering low level flow earlier in the day, prevented the storm from dropping a tornado until it reached the then-recovered moisture axis closer to the metropolitan area.

The storm exhibited dramatic rotation and stunning features throughout its lifecycle, including the largest wall cloud and most impressive, stretching tailcloud I've ever witnessed. This occurred during the daytime and our imagery is quite good.

During the nighttime portion of the chase, we caught several lightning-assisted glimpses of the tornado as it moved through the eastern half of Oklahoma. During much of the chase through the metropolitan area, the storm was to my west, both as we went north along the western side of the city and then as we went east along the northern access. Thus I filmed using a window mount facing those directions and was unable to observe (mostly) what the camera was filming. Traffic was heavy.

I have yet to review the 90 or so minutes worth of video I shot during the entire event. I will coordinate my video timestamps with the GPS log and damage reports to specify what the imagery shows when. That job starts tomorrow.

Dave and I followed rural roads and Route 66 parallel to the turnpike to maintain our position relative to the storm as it moved along the interstate.

We continued to witness lowerings and upper halves or upper thirds of the tornado, our view of the base often blocked by the trees. However, as the storm caused damage at several points along our chase, we're confident that our captures reflect the tornado(s) at several stages during the storm's lifespan.

We came through Stroud minutes behind the tornado. We observed metal roofs, signs, and tree limbs down as well as power poles and some severe vehicle damage. the power was out and stunned residents wandered along the blackened sidewalks and into the rainy streets. Another meso was forming behind us, with the possibility of another tornado on the heels of the first. We told people to take cover.

The disheartening scene in Stroud reminded me of all the devastation and broken lives I drove away from this week, headed for the next target area.

About one mile south of the intersection of State Road 102 and I-44, we approached the outer circulation of the tornado: our winds suddenly erupting from the west carrying debris and unfamiliar sounds. We reversed course and did not come that close again. Obviously this was unintentional. As I understand was the case with Tim, Gene, and Karen, we believed the tornado was to our northeast when it was apparently to our due north, or perhaps reforming above us.

This storm constantly regenerated mesocylones and carried several simultaneous circulations. This would have been a difficult to monitor during the daytime; at night it was very hard.

I don't prefer night chasing or chasing in metro areas, but Dave and I had access to several sources of information about the location and movement of the storm and tornado. First, the OUN live updates gave critical timely information about the track of the tornado. Dave monitored a television in his car to view up to the minute radar imagery with street level mapping. We listened to spotters and other chasers, and last, but far from least, we had the excellent nowcasting services of Jeff Gammons.

Jeff has nowcasted for me all week, from Kansas City, through Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma chases. On Friday, Jeff stayed up with us all chase, and, in fact, gave us preliminary setup updates along the way to our target. His work was invaluable and I owe him barbecue at Clark's in Tioga, Texas, as well as a t-bone from the Ponder Steak House.

Perhaps the most dangerous moment of the chase came when a well-known chaser, in the company of a news van, passed a line of vehicles on a slick, two-lane highway going into a curve with traffic approaching from the opposite direction. This idiotic maneuver was performed at high speeds. None of us in the group appreciated this chaser's decision to put our lives at risk in the interest of his video sales. Please don't email me for the name.

Dave and I chased today as well in Eastern Oklahoma, with no success. But as we were on the road again, I have yet to transfer any imagery or begin reviewing the GPS log. I expect the full chase report will take several days. My digital stills I can post tomorrow. I don't have firewire with me and will take my tape to a friend's house here in Texas to upload captures. I'm hoping to get the captures up by Tuesday night.

It was easily the most grueling and exhilarating chase of my career. When we realized the storm had weakened east of Tulsa, we celebrated. We intended to stop soon and believed the devastation and loss of life behind us far greater than what it was. We understood a major catastrophe had occurred on the Interstate, and that does not appear to be the case. We're grateful.

Congratulations to the chasers who had success this week. More importantly, congratulations to the Storm Prediction Center, local NWS offices, broadcast media,and storm spotters who worked hard to keep people safe. Imagine what an outbreak of tornadoes the magnitude of this one would have done forty or fifty years ago!

The integrated warning system has performed brilliantly. Also as importantly, people reacted to the information they received, taking shelter and saving themselves--the one thing that none of us can do for them.

Let's hope next week takes us back west of I-35 and into open rural areas.

Saturday, May 10, 2003


Long-Track Tornado Chase Across Oklahoma: 5/8/2003 Report


Tulsa, Oklahoma--Dave Fick and I are just getting up and around after chasing the Oklahoma supercell last night for over 200 miles and about seven hours. We
chased until 2:30 AM and caught glimpses of the large tornado several times. Hopefully the dash-mounted camcorder, which was running continuously, will have captured the lightning-backlit image of this monster. We encountered the outer edge of the circulation near the intersection of 102 and 44 when we got a little too close once.

We're shocked to see more storms potentially on tap today in Central Oklahoma....here we go again. This has undoubtedly been the most ferocious week plus of severe storms, not only for frequency but also for the sheer power and violence of the tornadoes producued, in the modern era. As I am posting this blog, the SPC has issued a Tornado Watch for parts of Oklahoma and the Norman NWS issued a discussion in the last thirty minutes describing the potential for tornadic supercells in Eastern Oklahoma. The Weather Channel is discussing a potentially "historic" day for tornadoes across the Midwest today. Already we have seen far more tornadoes in the last ten days than we normally see in all of May.

Warnings coming out now for Oklahoma. Gotta go. Pictures and video caps later.


Friday, May 09, 2003


Heading for Oklahoma

St. Joseph, Missouri--I hate to say that it looks like another round of severe storms along the dryline this afternoon in Oklahoma. We're heading south on 35 from Kansas City, and will go as south as necessary. An upper level disturbance associated with a closed low aloft is headed for the plains, and the boundary layer in the eastern half of Oklahoma is still juiced, with seventy degree dewpoints common. No specific target to name for now, but perhaps about halfway between OKC and the Kansas state line on I-35. No time to check messages or even do much beyond rudimentary forecasting. Time to hit the road again.

Thursday, May 08, 2003


Warm Front Frustrations


St. Joseph, Missouri--Today's chase along the foggy and grungy warm front was the most frustrating day of the vacation. Between the proxmimity of Indiana and my dissipating chase budget, I'm reminded of the old saying about too much of a good thing. Today Dave Fick, Scott Eubanks, and I chased at least three supercells, all with tornado warnings, none of which produced for us.

Scott and I turned on a dirt road near Clyde, Kansas and found ourselves sliding on a very slippery mud road. I spent thirty minutes going one-half mile and Scott wasn't so lucky, requiring a tractor to drag his Durango from the ditch. I could recite the GPS log to recount the day, but why bother? We went from around Clay Center and chased for several hours all the way to near St. Joseph. I'm tired and frustrated. Here's the only decent image of the day.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003


Chase Target Tomorrow
I like the area around or south of Concordia, Kansas tomorrow, perhaps more south if the warm front stalls, or more west if the system slows overall, as the ETA seems to trend. I'll leave early in the morning around 8:00 AM.


West Missouri Chase Report May 6,2003


Large meso hangs beneath second Fort Scott, Missouri supercell


Carthage, Missouri--Waited in Nevada, Missouri for storms to fire along the intersection of the dryline and an outflow boundary which drifted south from ongoing convection south of Kansas City. Jeff Gammons alerted me to the first cell of the day which fired north of Chanutte, Kansas and headed east northeast. I raced up 71 to Nevada and turned toward Ft. Scott. I closed on the classic looking supercell and Mike Hollingshead described the structure from his position near Uniontown, Kansas. Near the intersection of 54/7, I saw my first large wallcloud of the day, a feature which developed quickly into an elongated funnel cloud that I chased very closely by following the reliable grid of farmroads every mile.

Not far east of State Road 71 this storm rocketed away from me and, despite chasing as hard and persistently as I could due east between Rich Hill and Rockville, I abandoned the storm southwest of Appleton City and turned back to the west for the second supercell of the day, coming hard on the heels of the first one and moving toward Fort Scott. We believed these storms were moving along a boundary, either the warm front or the earlier analyzed outflow boundary.

When I crested a hill on 54 near Deerfield, a massive mesocyclone with striking inflow tails on either side and beautiful laminar symmetry hung beneath this classic though slightly elevated supercell. Mike Hollingshead was under this storm again and reported that it appeared to be undercut, perhaps by the very feature we counted on for horizontal vorticity and nuances of boundary magic. The cool air behind this outflow may have ‘cold-fronted’ the updraft and left us only with this impressive structure, which was variously reported as everything from a tornado on the ground to Elvis’s Flagship UFO. I told my nowcaster that under no circumstances would I abandon speedy and straight State Road 54 this time, because the smaller roads offered no hope to keep up with storms.

See full report and images here.


Of course when the storm exhibited the slightest southerly component I exited 54 for a south route with a better view of the updraft. I raced east on Farm Road E to put distance between myself and the storm. When I turned around to look, it was gone. This was the most bizarre moment of my chase career: I’d lost an entire supercell. It was behind me, then it wasn’t. I called Jeff Gammons and said, “What the hell just happened?” He explained that a storm to the south and my storm had merged, and the core of the new, larger cell jumped southward so that what had been due west of me was suddenly southeast. I didn’t enjoy this news.

Once again I tried to catch and reposition myself to no avail. I considered shutting it down and moved south and east toward State Road 160, thinking that I might catch sight of another storm approaching from Joplin. Drifting in the precip between two storms as another merger took place, I came out of the rain curtains around 7:30 to find a surprising wall cloud hanging from a meso right in front of me, just west of Golden City on State Road 126.


Dade County surprise meso and wallcloud

I believe this was the backside of the Dade County storm which earned a tornado warning only moments after I found the lowering. I snapped a few pictures and turned east to keep up for as long as I could, but soon this storm, too, dashed beyond reach, and, as I pursued on State Road 160, a tornado was reported near Bolivar. A spotter told me later that this might have been a false report due to various lowerings and blocky, gust front-related tendrils.

Karen Rhoden mentioned this Bolivar tornado report in an earlier post and Dave Crowley replied. However, I believe Karen’s post concerned this last, third storm that I’m describing—the Dade County storm—and I think Dave’s reply concerns the second storm, the one which produced a remarkable meso misreported as a wall cloud over Fort Scott. I saw both storms and they were very different. The Fort Scott meso storm merged and disappeared well before the Dade County meso cranked up.

I chased as hard as I could on 160, through the towns of Greenfield and Walnut Grove, taking road BB to continue due east. At this point I was due north of Springfield, and about to run out of gas, not from neglect but from a complete lack of opportunity to refill. South of Morrisville, I knew I was finished and that I’d need a gas station soon. Of course, the power was out in the village and, as we all know, gas won’t flow without the electricity to run the pumps. I rolled to Brighton on fumes and found a working station, then packed it in for the night.


Godlight over Brighton, Missouri

Many thanks to Jeff Gammons, Jeff Lawson, and Robert Hall for great nowcasting, and Mike Hollingshead for comparing notes from alternate angles.



Carthage, Missouri--I decided to stay here in beautiful, "historic" Carthage, Missouri
today. I plan to drive only to breakfast and a grocery store, then
return to my room to post pictures and my chase report from
yesterday, and do some reading. I may even break out some work of
my own and see if I still know how to write. After marathon mileage
(nearly 3000 so far) each day since last Friday, I'm ready for a day
like today, with a setup so marginal and far away that it doesn't
makes sense to lose position for the next day.

I may even take a nap.

I haven't looked at targeting for tomorrow, but I always hear it
described in the same general area, so I guess the models are
consistent. If it makes meteorological sense, I'd like to stay
south of the KC metro area, but who knows what will happen?

Okay, I'm checked in here for another day and I'm headed out to find
a *decent* cup of coffee for once on this trip. Chase Season 2003
rocks on.


Quick Update
Carthage, Missouri--Chased three supercells in Western and West Central Missouri on Tuesday (5-6), all with strong and photogenic wallclouds and other features. May have spotted the Bolivar tornado from a great distance. Started around Fort Scott, Kansas and finally quit northeast of Kansas City near dark. Will post a longer report tomorrow night. Looks like a Western Oklahoma target tomorrow, though the setup is highly conditional.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003


I'm headed for Springfield, MO. Looks like another
round of major storms this afternoon as the BL is
primed out the wazoo today--more CAPE than Sunday's
storms. Low level shear not as favorable for
tornadoes, but pretty close.

Dave and I may meet up in TUL if time allows, likely
not, however. He'll probably get the southern quarter
of activity as TUL expects the dryline to light up
this afternoon as well. This shift of targets was a
little unexpected, and a good example of why it pays
to be up here already. Yesterday, I expected to
drive to the Oklahoma panhandle today. Things change
rapidly.

I hope I get to SEE North Texas sometime this month!
LOL! I really want to.

Off to SGF,

Amos

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Update and Some Pictures

Norman, Oklahoma--Spent the evening running errands: a long-overdue haircut, washing the truck, laundry at the motel, catching up on emails from students, etc etc, after we drove to Southeast Oklahoma today on the long shot chance that something might fire. Nothing happened and I came on to Norman while Scott and Jeff returned to the Dallas metro area for what may or may not be a down day. Storms are possible in Missouri tomorrow. Whether I chase them or not is up for debate. Scott Currens may chase with me a for a few days so that would make things easier.

Looks like things won't be quiet long as Wednesday appears to be another very good dryline chase in Northern Oklahoma and then Thursday looks, on tonight's ETA, to be something like an exact replica of the major outbreak yesterday. No way that can happen twice in a week, but Thursday looks like a tornado day for sure, at least on the models tonight. The models, as we know, are always subject to change.

Here are a few pictures from my digital camera, which aren't very good because what we saw was poorly contrasted. My video shows the Wal-Mart tornado more clearly, but I'm going to post this anyway. I had the flash on when I shot it from inside the car, and the light washed against the glass and ruined the image. What can I say? It was not a day of great imagery for us, as it was for many chasers. Also, I should mention that yesterday was a very destructive day of tornadoes both for structures and loss of life. There's no celebration of tornadoes that have killed.


2003 MAY 5 KANSAS CITY SUPERCELLS & TORNADOES

Full report and images here.

[chase partner Jeff Lawson's report]



Large wedge on the ground probably near Platte City [shot from west of Smithville]
(damage reports and paths from KC NWS seem to confirm this, though Brian Fant and Scott Eubanks believed they were watching the same feature from another location and report it was not on the ground. However, reading storm reports today, it seems two supercells in NW KC metro were so close together, that it's difficult to know if what we were looking at was the same thing they were looking at.)


This large tornado I manage to obscure by allowing my flash to go off in the truck, thus washing out the image. It shows up more clearly on video, though not by much. It was visually quite obvious, however, that a large tornado was approaching Excelsior Springs from the south. This, we believe, is the same tornado which began in Liberty Kansas and tracked behind us up State Road 69. I will link the larger images to these thumbnails as soon Jeff Gammons comes to the plains next week and shows me how to code the html. Haha. And it's 1:00 AM and I've chased from Texas to Missouri and back again in four days. So as Furio says, "Don't bitch to me." :-)


Monday, May 05, 2003


Big Tornado Day

Ottawa, Kansas--Spending the night southwest of Kansas City after another long day of chasing with Jeff Lawson, Scott Eubanks, and Brian Fant in the high risk area in northeast Kansas and Western Missouri.

We had three or four distinct events. First, Jeff and I may have seen a tornado near Platte City in the Northwest Quadrant of Kansas City, Missouri.

Later, we saw the outer edge of circulation as a tornado formed in downtown Liberty, Missouri, where large debris floated through the air in a strangely dim light with rotating rain curtains and screaming inflow behind us. We bailed out of the approaching tornado and raced it up State Road 69 toward Excelsior Springs where we saw the somewhat rain-wrapped wedge grind from the south toward a Wal-Mart near the edge of town. When the precip was too heavy to stay, we continued up the highway and witnessed a very small, non-violent (and therefore not meeting the classical definition of a tornado) circulation which crossed the road near Wood Heights.

Unfortunately, these storms and tornadoes peeked in and out so quickly and in such hilly terrain that our video isn't even close to what chasers saw in Kansas City proper or, apparently Southeastern Kansas. But the experience of being in the outer circulation of a developing large tornado was surreal enough to more than make up for the lack of glorious footage. I may have images of the Wal-Mart wedge that are *decent,* but after three straight days of driving constantly, I'm in no condition to upload them. In the morning, I'll post them.

A huge thanks to Jeff Gammons for great nowcasting, staying on the phone with us constantly as we skirted the edge of the tornadic storm moving through North Central KC metro. Also, Rob Hall made himself available, too. Thanks to both. Congratulations to all my friends who had success the last two days: Shane, Scott Currens, Chris Sokol, and many others.

Yesterday we chased the left split because, like Sam, we expected the storm would interact with the warm front and a north/south boundary we analyzed near Vernon. What we found was, of course, an inverted backwards thunderstorm that never got its act together for us, while the Haskell storm apparently sat and spun deep into the core of the earth.

Tomorrow looks like a much-needed down day, and we won't be doing much driving. Tuesday, we'll head south to position for Wednesday.

Amos Magliocco


Sunday, May 04, 2003


We chased the left splitter yesterday for what seemed
like good reasons at the time; only saw brief
wallclouds.

Very short of time this morning. We're in Winfield,
Kansas (myself, Brian F, Scott E, and Jeff Lawson) and
we're headed for the Topeka area for initiation.

Best of luck to all. Be safe.

Saturday, May 03, 2003


It looks to me as if Roger Edwards is as stumped as the rest of us
and has reverted to a RUC-based forecast. In this case it might not
be a bad idea. New RUC shows the warm front stalled and kinked in
the E Texas Panhandle, where it *sort of* intersects a lackluster
dryline which doesn't surge because of the delayed surface
cyclogenesis.

In fact if we didn't have the warm front, we'd have surface flow
parallel to the dryline, yielding zilcho convergence and a
guaranteed cap bust. But the warm front is there (on the model, and
that jives with obs) and backs the winds at 0Z in a very localized
area around Shamrock. The RUC does a nice job depitcing the
reaction of surface winds to a boundary like that in a small area,
particularly since it is flow somewhat deviant from the wider scale
pattern.

Anyway, looking at a tour of soundings everywhere else, it's cap
city, and I mean some big ones. FWD is hugely capped, as is OUN and
DDC. DDC has a great vertical shear profile, but if they don't get
some dewpoints AND the warm front, they'll never break that cap. As
for the metroplex, the cap is even bigger. If the warm front stalls
along the river, then who knows? If not, I just don't see it given
the 12Z sounding this morning. It might take a convective temp of
100F to pop that thing today.

The plume of moisture moving into the Panhandle that Edwards
described is evident on the new surface obs, just like the short
wave ridging aloft (drat!) is visible on the vapor loop. This is a
super complicated pattern, but I know one thing: I'm too far north.
I'm bolting southwest and may check data again around noon.

Right now I think I'm heading more in the Shamrock direction.

Amos in Winfield, KS

Friday, May 02, 2003


Back In The Alley

Winfield, Kansas--Finished the 650 mile drive from Bloomington to Winfield, Kansas a few minutes ago. State Road 166 in Southern Kansas is a great route, fast and straight with a 65 and sometimes 70 mph speed limit. I made excellent time.

Nothing eventful beyond the drive. The ghosts of long chase vacations past have taught me some lessons, I noticed today. I was compelled not only to eat healthier, but to eat healthier than I do at home. I ordered a grilled chicken salad with water for lunch, and stopped at Cracker Barrel somewhere in Central Missouri this evening for grilled catfish, with ice tea, cornbread and a few sides. Only way to pull this off without going crazy is to get a mandatory seven hours of sleep nightly and not eat garbage all day long. I'm taking my contacts out nightly as well to keep them from drying out as they always do when zipping back and forth between humid and dry air masses.

No idea about targets tomorrow; haven't looked at data yet. Consensus (from phone calls and hazardous weather outlooks heard on NOAA) is that the warm front should set up somewhere along the Kansas/Oklahoma border, and not in Northern Kansas as we thought a few days ago. This is fine with me, except for the stronger cap down here. We'll see how it goes. This chase I should be in good shape relative to the front, well north of it, so little chance for it to slip past. I won't be tempted into southerly targets this time. I'm all about the LCL's tomorrow, and easterly surface flow.

Several chaser friends are on their way tomorrow: Jeff Lawson, Eric Nguyen, Brian Fant, Scott Weberpal, and likely dozens, if not hundreds, of others. Should be a real zoo.

Okay, time to check data and hit the sack.



Chase Vacation Begins

I have to take out the trash, pack the truck, and turn in grades before the start of my chase vacation this morning. Then I have to drive somewhere. Problem is I'm not sure where.

SPC Day 2 isn't very helpful, mentioning what I already knew about favorable areas both close to the low and along the dryline. Each spot has a trick to it, of course. The northerly target, in NW Kansas, is a very narrow instability ribbon, according to the ETA, where storms would elevate having moved across it. Yet the helicity and low-level shear up there is great.

The southerly target, along the dryline in Southern Kansas or even Northern Oklahoma, may be capped. Though if the cap breaks, with low LCL's and a wider warm sector, storms would survive as supercells much longer.

As I'm not a big believer in sitting here trying to decide, I'll take the route, I-70, that leaves me the most options. At Topeka, I'll decide to drop south to Wichita or continue west to Russell based on the new Day 2, tea leaves, the capture of the Iraqi Sanitation Director, etc, etc. If I have to, I'll stop in Lyons, which is the geographic center of the state--haha.

So I'm finally on my way!


Thursday, May 01, 2003


May Is Here!


The magical month of May is here and I woke this morning to an MCD right on top of me, with cu bubbling just to the west. Looks like SPC will issue a blue box for this portion of Central Indiana before noon. I can't chase today, but I appreciate the celebration in my honor. Haha. Last night I managed to throw some text and pictures up on the blog from my laptop, pulling the images from the camera and posting all with the laptop. So that works. I want to learn to make tables in html, so maybe Jeff L can give me a tutorial as we're chasing down tornadoes in Southern Kansas Saturday. My Texas flag front license plate came in the mail yesterday, the image you see above. I'll attach it to the front of the truck later. The plate that was only the Texas flag looked too strange. It looked like the Puerto Rican flag when stretched to fit the weird plate-sized proportions. This is explicitly clear.

Today I collect my students portfolios and grade them all like crazy. I have an outside chance of turning in grades before 5:00 PM today though it's not likely. After I finish, all I lack are a few packing chores, a few packages from FedEx (like my wide angle lens adapter!), and washing clothes.

A few birds are nesting beneath the cover of the porch, making the cats crazy. Oreo jumps on top of the support bar for the venetian blinds and knocks off the hard plastic cover which stretches across the support bar, then she falls back to the dining room table where she scatters my books before sprinting away in terror. Cute.

Indications are that Saturday's chase will ineed happen along the warm front in Central or South Central Kansas, with the potential for tornadic supercells as far south as North Central Oklahoma. I've been too far south on a few chases already this year, so I'm going up into the cooler air this time to try my luck. Sunday, I have no clue. All depends on how quickly the system ejects. If it's Southern Iowa, I'll play it. Anything east of there I'd be more hesitant about. But Saturday looks good right now.


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